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We’re all going on .. August 31, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Kids, My Girlfriend, Travel.
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It has been a Summer of holidays this year. I have got to the ungrateful spoilt brat stage of actually looking forward to a weekend at home doing nothing – I don’t mean that in the literal sense as all have been a lot of fun, but when we booked 5 weekends away in a row, it didn’t seem as ambitious as it was/is in reality.

First up was a 10 day roadtrip to;
Amsterdam – Anne Frank, Canal Boat, Trams a go-go, Nasty Hotel
Antwerp – Lavish Hotel, Transvestite Town Square entertainment, pretty walks
Brussels – Manneken Pis, Atonium (which I have wanted to visit since I was a kid & didn’t dissapoint), Euro Parliment
Luxembourg – Not a lot to entertain the tourist, but gorgeous views and the way the City is cut into the hillside has to be seen.
Paris – a day of being a City guide and one day at Disney ..

Then we went to Berlin to sign house stuff. We rented some bikes for the weekendand my Sister and her Boyfriend played the perfect hosts and we toured around on our Fat Tyres. It’s a great way to see Berlin as it is a very dispersed City and also very flat. We also spent a day biking out to Hohenschönhausen Prison, the former Stasi run establishment, used for housing predimenetly Political prisonors/the innocent – now a memorial. A really moving tour, all be it in German only, by former inmates that takes you round the depths of the U-Boat basement cells and recalls tales that you wouldn’t believe unless you were there. Moving and memorable.

Next up was Cambridge for a 40th Birthday Party on the River. For reasons of consuming alcohol, we stayed over and had a hotel looking on Parker’s Piece. Not having ever stayed in Cambridge before, it’s so picturesque and peaceful first thing in the morning when the greens are empty and the tourist haven’t yet woken up.

Last weekend was Warsaw. We flew with Central Wings .. never again. Our outbound flight was delayed by 7 hours, after already being delayed 5 hours advised by e-mail. We therefore sat in the departure lounge until 2am having expected to have landed in Poland at 10pm. The return journey was little better, an immediate delay of 5 hours .. both events the reasons were given as nothing more than ‘Operational’. The part imbetween was great though. My Sister once more played perfect host and we had an apartment all to ourselves. We stayed in and around the Old/New Town on Saturday, went Swimming and ate loads for ‘Brunch’ on Sunday, visited a memorial section of the old Ghetto wall & watched movies. Then Monday we visited a new (to me at least) Museum for the Warsaw Uprising. It was very atmospheric with excellent sound effects in each room, a sympathetic construction, and a number of genuine glimpses of the past.

It’s a lot to be grateful for, and we had a great time at each and every one, aside from some airline delays, but this weekend I have nothing planned, and it feels just great ..

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Too Much, Too Young .. May 1, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, My Girlfriend.
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There was a time when MySpace, meant My Space & not some social intraction portal .. but it is with a giddy step that I announce to the world* that ‘my space’ is soon to become ‘our space’ .. it might catch on you know .. I asked T to move in & she said .. yes

I have that happy nervousness about me, albeit without the nervousness .. I have lived with anyone for 6 years & although the overwhelming emotion is excitement, I am equally curious about all the potentially pointless debates about nothing, that mean lots to one and little to another .. i.e. why can’t we sell all your guitars? <gulp> …

What happens when my ‘stuff’ gets relegated to the garage, what about the Barbie collection .. is that negotiable in today’s society?? Actually, should I admit to having a barbie collection in the first place????

As I momentarily skip through corn fields in my mind, it seems to be the easiest decision .. she is the best thing ever and soooooo easy to get on with .. so as I look forward to unpacking boxes full of things pink, fluffy and bow like, someone remind me in a couple of years time that debates about selling guitars are pointless … please please remind me …

* well, maybe not the whole world, but ‘modest readership’ sounded paltry in such context ..

Isopropyl .. April 26, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Kids, Music, My Girlfriend.
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Say hello, wave goodbye ..

150px-isopropanol-3d-vdw.pngIt is the end of an era .. in days of old, when ships set sail to restore England’s pride, I bought a smoky brown glass jar of Isopropyl Alcohol from Boots Chemist for £3.69 (I know cos the label is still on it) on recommendation of the geeky looking guy in the hi-fi shop .. I was a mere teenager and audio cassettes were the de rigour .. I used to record loads of trite off the radio and had just started getting into four track home recording on my Tascam Porta 1 .. ahh those were the days ..

To clean the cassette heads you used to have to get a cotton bud, dip it in the alcohol and rub all the dirt and grime away before you made your masterpiece .. the smell is instant and recognisable, like a mix of pencil smells & clinical institutions ..

Anyway .. I’ve kept that self same bottle of Alcohol on the shelf for all those years, it saw me through leaving home, came with me to college, my first real home, having kids (I think that’s when it went to the high shelf) through to today .. but needs must .. I was clearing space out for girls stuff ‘well where am I going to put my stuff?’, said T, with what I have to admit was a reasonable degree of concern and empathy* .. the junk had to go .. I had ditched the audio cassettes some 3 or 4 years ago, but the Isopropyl stood for so much more ..

It is now no longer. Where the bottle once stood, now stands girls stuff .. disposable stuff that will probably be out of favour in a few months and replaced by the seasons’ hot trends .. tee hee .. so long big brown bottle, you have been good to me ..

* It’s because she is worth it ..

Madrid .. April 18, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Holiday, Idle Thoughts, Madrid, My Girlfriend, Reviews, Travel.
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Of course your car will be safe parked in Luton all weekend .. <gulp> .. as we hauled our sleep deprived, adrenalin fuelled bones to Luton Terminal 1, I tried to sound reassuring .. it was quite good to leave Luton, it isn’t the most inspiring location in the UK ..

The taxi into Madrid centre is unassuming at first, but you get a great panoramic of the City about half way , with the bull ring menacing close and the Commercial district in full view ..

urban_hotel_central.jpgI still didn’t know where we were staying & when we reached the destination, I was somewhat speechless. The Hotel Urban is a gem .. a Five Star gem at that .. the fixed grin that started at the leafy tube station the day before just got a tad bigger .. with Madrid being more a place of atmosphere rather than manic sightseeing, having a plush hotel was just the best thing ever ..

Urban is full on .. part of the Derby Hotel Collection and notably a feature in the Design Hotels Guide that T had spotted when we stayed in the Three Sisters .. very clever girl ..

“Urban” is plush in the design sense of the word. It has oceans of glass and steel without all the twee fussiness of a traditional bell-boy-esque 5* establishment. If anyone would feel out of place in a 5* royalty, but wants some seriously lavish design, this is the place to come ..

The staff were all understated and friendly without being in your face, and their dress code is closer to Men In Black than Brideshead Revisted. There is ethnic art a plenty, which whilst not my bag, it does work really well with the contrasting uber modern construction.

What to do in Madrid? well aside from making full use of the hotel’s features and hospitality, naturally .. we did a walking tour of Old Madrid, taking in Tapas, Plaza mayor, the Palace, the Cathedral & the Opera .. ending up on the main shopping street of Casa Via .. it is a very clean city, and whilst my pre-conception of Spain is neutral take it or leave it, the country as a whole did go up in my estimation after only the first day.

Adjusting to the eat late and party principle, we Siesta’d and ate at a great little Restaurant called Root at something approaching midnight. It’s a marvl that old and young alike are out at this time, all looking bright and fresh .. if this were the UK, eating at midnight would be pissed blokes out for a Curry and nothing more. The place was rammed with locals, always a good sign, and the waiting time was acceptable. Food was fantastic and the atmosphere equal to it .. could have happily stayed there all evening, but we went drinking instead.

The following day we went further afield, slightly. A walking tour through the Bourbon District, including Parque del Retiro & its lazy laid back inhabitants. Then we headed out on the Metro .. I love getting underground on public transport, Faro de Moncloafor one thing it’s seemingly always cleaner and more efficient than London & also gets you a view of the real City. I then went on a solo tour of the Bernabeu Stadium whilst T hit the shops .. we then leisurely walked for miles toward the Faro de Moncloa tower .. a great vantage point over the City .. sadly it was a Woody World situation and the place was shut, but the walk was worth it ..

We did the right thing and slept, then ate late and then drunk more .. it is definitely the way to go, but it does screw your body clock up when you get back to blighty. It was a struggle to get up and out of the hotel before 3pm the following day, but it was for all the right reasons..

Culture injection on Sunday. Approx 3 stops at the marvelous Faborit Coffee Shop, bordered by a waltz through the Old town, up and round to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Depending on your taste in art this is well worth a visit .. a sweeping overview of 19th & 20th Century Western Art with some great Impressionist & Expressionist pieces. I tire at the older Baroque period, but thankfully my partner in crime feels the same .. the building and gardens are notable in their own right & also the £4 entry seemed cheap by US equivalents ..

Then .. we came home .. the car was safe, lost and alone in a multi storey middle England concrete prison, with lifts that had aroma’s of piss & crashed the soul back to earth with a jolt ..

It was a fantastic weekend, primarily the company, but that aside, I hadn’t a clue where I was going and Madrid was in my Top 3 places to visit! I would have been happy as larry in Skegness, but there’s always T’s birthday .. I’m sure she would like the Smith’s tribute deep down .. I’ll work on it ..

I’m in love with a Girl .. April 16, 2007

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, My Girlfriend, Travel.
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As surprise weekends go, I couldn’t really wish for a more perfect surprise .. that’s not to say I have had that many surprise weekend’s to gather a baseline, but I feel safe on my hunch ..

To the call of ‘Can I take you away somewhere for your Birthday Weekend?’, I have one stock answer .. 

I hadn’t made any effort to spoil the birthday surprise and have been rather impressed with the tactics to throw me off scent .. I’m not sure if I am easily pleased, but even the red herrings in this episode sounded very appealing .. there was the Smith’s tribute Band at Butlins, the Northern Soul weekender, non stop naughtiness in the Lake District & a Brighton coastal jaunt .. all mentioned with varying degrees of sincerity .. the fact that I loved the sound of all of them didn’t help .. if there is a weekend of Smith’s tribute bands at Butlins can someone please tell me about it as I feel farely sure I will have another birthday at some point ..

‘Don’t get too excited, we are going somewhere in the UK’  .. that stayed with me .. up until a friend of mine asked where I was going last Thursday.. I still had no clue at that point, but he asked whether T knew where I kept my passport .. I didn’t think she did, but after putting him on hold and going to check .. the passport was missing .. woo hoo .. I’ll make an MI5 agent yet ..

I met T after work at a leafy tube station and we loaded up the Polo for the start of our journey .. I wasn’t blindfolded, but wasn’t allowed to look .. On the premise of stopping for something to eat on our way up the M1, we pulled into Luton .. I looked curious as we headed into the hotel car park, and maintained the same gaze through checking in and sitting down to eat ..

‘You can have part of your present early’ .. ahhhh .. it was  guide book to .. … … Madrid .. OMG !!

I would have been more than happy with a weekend away anywhere with T, but this was pretty much a bullseye … I loved the fact that she wanted to take me away at all, to build up the surprise and to care as much if not more about the detail as the end product ..

I don’t believe in the term of a Soulmate, but if Carlsberg made them, I think I found the one they made for me .. oh .. and it got better too ..